(CMR) Suggesting that a September reopening date of the Cayman Islands' airports and tourism industry is feasible, the Opposition People’s Progressive Movement has called on the Government to make its plans known for reopening the country's borders.
Leader of The Progressives Roy McTaggart said, “A September opening date provides time for vaccinations here and in the USA to increase substantially. It also allows our tourism businesses and government entities to prepare to accept tourists on the island again, including hotels hiring Caymanian staff. And it will enable airlines time to schedule flights. Of course, after the border opening, our Covid-19 vaccination program will continue to vaccinate even more people locally.”
He said based on statistics, 75 to 80 percent of the population are expected to be vaccinated by then.
“We believe we are now at the point where we can do more than think positively about re-opening the border. I can say this with confidence because our vaccination program has gone very well since the start of the year,” McTaggart stated.
He pointed out that as of June 7th, about 72% (46,928 people) of the estimated population had at least one dose of the vaccine, while 61% (39,090 people) had both doses.
“Another 10,000 people with both vaccine shots will take us past 75% of the estimated population being protected. Stretch this to 13,000 people vaccinated with both doses, and we will get to 80% of the estimated population being protected,” he continued.
The Progressives suggested that a re-opening plan should include a published planned border re-opening date of September 1, 2021.
They suggested that tourists and residents arriving in the Cayman Islands on or after that date with proof they have been fully vaccinated, within guidelines set by public health, should be able to land without the need to quarantine. However, public health would need to advise on what testing requirements would be required for fully vaccinated people.
Unvaccinated tourists and residents would still be required to quarantine for up to 14 days with the standard regime of PCR testing now in place.
Meantime, the Opposition has called for tourism stipend to be extended until the end of the year and increased to $2000. They have also called for pension holiday to be extended to the end of the year.
The Progressives said they were not calling for everything to be opened at once, but a phased reopening was recommended.
“We know that tourism will not get back to 2019 numbers overnight. However, the government now needs to set the stage for a tourism recovery while assisting unemployed tourism workers. The government cannot continue with an absence of leadership on this and related issues requiring urgent attention and decision,” McTaggart said.
He pointed out that several businesses that depended on tourism were struggling to stay open and said if the borders continue to remain close, it will be harder for these businesses to survive.
“Our hope this afternoon is that we can encourage the government to tell the country this week what their plans are. We have said in broad strokes what we believe needs doing. But it is for the government to say what are their intentions on re-opening,” McTaggart said.
The Opposition leader said the government's silence on most things, especially on re-opening, creates genuine concern for people and businesses needing to plan and have real hope for tourism restarting this year.
The Progressives have called for the Ministers of Tourism and Health to let their voices be heard on the reopening of the country's borders.